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AAMC 2014: Standing up to Mistreatment: A Medical Student Shares Lessons Learned


What should a medical student do when faced with bad, or even abusive treatment from attending physicians? Medical student Mayme Marshall talked about what she has encountered, and how she dealt with it.  

Announcer: Broadcasting from the Algorithms for Innovation booth at the AAMC in Chicago. The Health Care Insider is on The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.

Interviewer: Mayme Marshall is a fourth-year medical student from Creighton University. And, Mamie, tell me have you experienced physician bad behavior, kind of like they talked about in some of the sessions today? And if so, what did that look like exactly?

Marshall: As a third-year medical student, you're exposed to all types of physicians, surgeons, family practice doctors, and I think I kind of took it as my job to mindfully watch what I liked and what I didn't like.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Marshall: So I think bad behavior is . . . that's hard to define. I mean, sometimes you'll just see a physician that's not behaving in a way that I want to behave. And I consider that bad behavior.

Interviewer: Or not treating you in a way that you'd like to be treated.

Marshall: Right.

Interviewer: But maybe it's not terrible.

Marshall: And it might not even be me personally, it might be a surgeon who's not treating his staff well in the OR, who's just rude and cranky or very disrespectful.

Interviewer: Yeah.

Marshall: Which I just think is not appropriate, it's just not professional behavior. So I think that's a good example of it. It's just kind of OR culture, but I mean, the worst probably bad behavior that I've encountered was a physician who I felt was asking me to do her training or to do things that . . . like epic training or things like that. And you know there are pressures because these are the people who are evaluating you and grading you. So you didn't really feel like you can really say no, but all in all . . .

Interviewer: But you felt she should have to do it herself because, I mean, she needs to know this, right?

Marshall: She needs to know it, yeah. So yes, I definitely say I've experienced that.

Interviewer: So we talked about it's in the culture of medicine to some extent, and that's part of the problem. We need to get it out. Did you notice any particular group of physicians? Were the surgeons worse than somebody else? Or was it really across the board?

Marshall: Well, I'm going into pediatrics. So I feel like . . . I'm going to say it's not in the pediatrics world. I really haven't seen it. I think that's part of the reason why I like pediatrics is because they tend to be really wonderful people. And I think surgeons get a bad rap. I've met many wonderful patient surgeons that are completely professional and lovely every time I've encountered them, even when things are going completely wrong. So I would say it's across the board. Everybody has a bad day, but it's not excusable for bad behavior.

Interviewer: What do you think the solution is?

Marshall: I mean, I think this is the solution, just having these conversations and talking candidly about it. I think it really comes from the top down because if you have deans and faculty that just don't tolerate that type of behavior to their students then I think that's the way. You'll just have to foster a culture that doesn't accept that behavior.

Interviewer: And then, hopefully, med students like yourself seeing it and being disgusted by it and deciding that's not what we want for our future.

Marshall: Right. It goes one of two ways. When you're a medical student, if you've been affected by it negatively, then you might go the other direction and say, "I've never going to treat someone that way. I've never doing that." But then, it also goes the other way. Where someone is like, "I was treated this way. It's kind of a rite of passage in medicine to be low man on totem pole. I really hope that this generation of doctors . . . I think we have a little bit different perspective because we are up to our necks in debt. We're not going to make as much money as the physicians before us.

So I think you're going to see a new generation of doctors that are very service driven and are doing it really for the love of the profession. So I hope it also impacts the way we behave.

Announcer: Sparking conversations to transform academic medicine. For more, stop by our booth at the AAMC or go to, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.

By: Scot Singpiel

Scot Singpiel is senior producer for